The Ante Effect: How to Adjust Your Poker Strategy for Antes

One of my favorite parts of a Sng or tournament is when the antes kick in. It should be one of yours too. You can open more hands, steal blinds and make more plays, such as resteals. Who doesn’t like to be more active?

The reason why I become more active when antes kick in is because antes are extra bets placed in the pot in addition to the blinds. This extra ‘dead money’ is meant to build pots and encourage more action.

It works, too. For example, in an 18-man Sng, there are two 100/200 levels, one without antes and one with 25-chip antes. With the blinds posted without antes, the pot is 300 chips. However, with blinds and antes posted, the pot is 525 chips — an increase of 75%.

It’s not just the 75% increase that’s worth noting. It’s that the increase creates such a large pot to stack ratio. In other words, if you have a 2500 chip stack at 100/200 with no antes, a 300 chip pot only makes up about 12% of your stack. Not really worth fighting over. However, a pot with 525 chips will make up 21% of your stack. That’s worth fighting for.

3 Adjustments to Make for Levels with Antes

Now that you know why you should be more active in levels with antes, it’s time to look at a few adjustments you can should make to your strategy.

Stealing the Blinds

The first adjustment I suggest you make is to steal the blinds more frequently. It’ll only take a couple of times before you’ve increased your stack by 40-50% or more. Tip: I actually hold off on stealing in the non-ante levels, primarily so that I can create (preserve) a tighter image. I find that this increases my success rate.

Despite what others think, I’m a huge fan of the min-raise. Not only when I steal the blinds, but whenever I open in rounds with antes or past blinds of 50/100. It’s very effective, because I’m risking as little as possible, to win as much as possible.

For example, say that I’m trying to steal the blinds at 100/200/25. There is 525 in the pot. A lot of guys here would 2.5 or even 3x to steal. I don’t care for this because at 2.5x (500), you have to be successful 1 out of 2 attempts (50%) just to break even (at 3x it’s 1.15 out of 2). However, if you min-raise to 400, you’d only have to be successful about 1 out of 2.5 times or around 40% to breakeven. This is a massive difference now, not to mention over the long run.


Another tactic that I use in my overall MTT (antes) strategy are resteals or shoves. These are made when another opponent opens and creates dead money. There may or may not be other callers in the pot.

This is a great play because with the antes, the pot will make up anywhere from 15% to 30% of your stack. Between your fold equity and the equity your hand has if called, you don’t have to be successful that often for a resteal to be profitable.

For example, we’re at 100/200/25 with 525 in the pot and a 3k stack. If someone opens to 400, there will now be 925 in the middle, about 33% of our stack. Relying on fold equity alone, this play has to work 3 out of 4 times to breakeven.

That sounds like a lot, right? It’s actually not that bad. The reason being is that with a tighter table image, I think we can get folds (at least) 2 out of 4 times. Say our hand has 50% equity. We’ll win 1 out of 2 times when we have to run it, for a total of 3 out of 4 times. I think this is a conservative estimate too, that our fold equity will induce folds more than 50% of the time.

The one thing to remember here is that you want to make sure that between the antes and the other players in the pot, that there is plenty of dead money to justify a resteal. I recommend restealing pots worth at least 15% of your stack, and prefer 20% or more.

Last thing — remember that your opponents are eyeing the dead money too. So be sure to watch out for stacks to your left that have 15-20 big blinds or less, as they’ll be the ones most likely to reshove on you. You’ll want to adjust your opening range to reflect more hands you’re willing to call off with than not.

Short Stack Strategy

The last major adjustment that I make is to my shoving ranges when I’m a short stack. The reason why you want to adjust your shoving range is that with antes, effective stack sizes are smaller than they appear to be. I don’t know the exact math, but as I understand it, the general rule of thumb is that stacks are 2-3 big blinds smaller with antes. So a 10 big blind stack would effectively be 7-8, meaning your range needs to be wider.

You’ll want to remember too, that other stacks are effectively shorter as well. They’ll have wider calling ranges, not to mention that they’ll have better odds to call your shove due to the dead money that antes create.